Winter Garden

  • Author: Kristin Hannah
  • Performed by Susan Ericksen
  • Released: January 2010 by Brilliance Audio
  • Category: Contemporary Fiction
  • five-stars

Publisher’s Summary

51+9u9RYqUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX385_SY500_CR,0,0,385,500_SH20_OU02_“From the author of the smash-hit best-seller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.
Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard: the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father fails ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time – and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago.
Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.”

My Review

A vividly powerful and moving story dealing with two sisters growing up without the love of their mother, Anya, and never knowing why. Anya was born in Russia and married their father after WWII. The only time there was any interaction between Meredith, Nina and Anya was when, from time to time, she told them a Russian fairytale at bedtime.

Their father was the one constant in their lives, always loving, always acting as mediator between them and Anya. When he became ill and near to death his last wish was for the fairytale to be told to Meredith and Nina through to the end. He wanted his daughters to get to know their mother. It’s left to them to try and break through their mother’s seeming indifference and coldness. How awful for all of them to be in such a position.

As Anya tells them so much more of the fairytale than she ever has before they come to realise it’s actually the story of their mother’s harrowing life before she met their father. She’s always been too afraid to talk about anything, her daughters didn’t even know when her birthday was, but now Anya realises there’s no reason to be afraid anymore. And as Anya’s story unfolds, although it’s unbelievably heartbreaking for all of them, the curative cracks begin to appear in their self built walls.

The relationship between the three women is explored with awareness, understanding and sensitivity. The whole story, past and present, is compelling and so emotional. It’s no walk in the park on a sunny day, it packs a hell of a punch especially since Anya’s unimaginable suffering is more than likely very near to what happened to countless people during the appalling Siege of Leningrad. One of those stories that stay with you long after the book is finished. Even more so, if that’s possible, when it’s read with such feeling and expression, Susan Ericksen does a stellar job.

Ms Hannah has a very emotive and flowing style of writing with captivating imagery. The descriptions of the Siege of Leningrad and the life the people had to endure, the brutality, atrocities and inhumanity, is beyond haunting and so distressing. It’s no wonder Anya was broken. Her daughters are damaged in a different way and it’s only through the telling of Anya’s story, as the past and present are woven together, that all three begin to heal and make peace with each other and come to terms with who they are.

Oh my, the ending! Didn’t see that one coming. Have a box (or two!) of tissues at the ready…if you haven’t already.

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